Creamy Crunchy Mac and Three Cheese Muffins
These little Creamy Crunchy Mac and Three Cheese Muffins are just what the doctor orders for pure, unadulterated comfort food. You get all of the regular cheesy gooeyness of regular Mac and Cheese but avoid the war for the crunchy top and sides. In every bite of Creamy Crunchy Mac and Three Cheese Muffins, you get creamy, cheesy mac and cheese and the crunchy edge. When you are staring down the beginning of November and still don’t have a furnace, comfort food helps.
Mac and Cheese is just one of those foods that makes me happy. I don’t have it often because I try to keep my refined carbohydrates to a minimum. See post Here Goes Nothing about the excessive softness around my middle. When I need it, I need it, though. I have two methods for making mac and cheese. The first method is a quick method with fewer dishes and results in macaroni and cheese that is cheesy but not creamy. The second involves making a cheese sauce and mixing that cheese sauce with the cooked macaroni.
In both cases, I boil the macaroni in a generous pot of salted water. I err on the side of more water than I need because I HATE gluey pasta. Gluey pasta often results from having not enough water to pasta. Boil it up until the pasta is al dente or cooked but still firm.
In both cases, I grate up a bunch of cheese and will often combine cheeses to create a bit more complex flavour. If I am doing my quick method, I put the cooked macaroni in a large casserole. Add butter, milk and grated cheese and stir. I add seasoning salt and sprinkle more cheese on top. Top with panko bread crumbs and put in a 350 degree oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or so.
If I need a little more creamy decadence to my comfort food because, for example, no furnace in Canada in November, I use a different method. Instead of adding the grated cheese into the cooked macaroni as set out above, I melt butter in a pot on the stove and make a roux. A roux is a combination of melted butter and flour. I cook the roux for a bit to cook out some of the flour taste and then add salt and hot milk. You can use cold milk but I find it incorporates more easily if the milk is warmed up.
I add the milk gradually to create a sauce and then add the cheese to melt. I then put the cooked pasta into a casserole dish and add the cheese sauce. Mix well and add some more cheese over top as well as the salt and panko crumbs.
For the recipe below, I followed the method with the cheese sauce. It wouldn’t work to use the other method very easily. Rather than putting the macaroni and cheese mixture into a casserole dish, I used a muffin tin. I put equal amounts of the macaroni and cheese mixture into each muffin tins and baked for about 20 minutes. Once the muffins are done, I remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. This allows the muffins to “gel” so they don’t immediately collapse all over the plate. If the colour on the top of the muffins is not where you want it to be, throw your broiler on for the last few minutes to brown up the panko.
Creamy Crunchy Mac and Three Cheese Muffins
This is a true comfort food that has all the cheesiness of regular macaroni and cheese but is made in a muffin tin!
- 8 - 10 c water
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 c macaroni
- 1/8 c butter
- 1/4 c flour
- 1 c milk
- 1 c cheese 3 mixed varieties, shredded, plus extra for top
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 12 slices tomato
- 1/2 c panko
Fill large pot or dutch oven with water and add first portion of salt.
Bring water to a boil and add macaroni. Reduce to medium heat. Cook until pasta is al dente or just cooked but still firm. 3 to 5 minutes. Once it is cooked to your desired consistency, remove from heat and strain out all of the water and return the pasta to the pot.
While your macaroni is cooking, melt your butter in a medium sauce pan and add your flour. Cook for a couple of minutes. While it is cooking, measure out your milk and microwave it for 1 to 2 minutes.
Once your milk is hot, gradually add it to the roux you made in the previous step. Once you have added all of the milk, add the salt and the cayenne and cook for a few more minutes before adding the shredded cheese. I like to use extra old cheddar for a stronger flavour mixed with applewood smoked cheddar and a regular orange cheddar for the top.
Melt the cheese into the sauce. Once the cheese sauce is done, thoroughly mix the cheese sauce with the pasta in the pot.
Once you have mixed together the pasta and the cheese sauce, portion it equally into a 12 portion greased muffin tin.
Add a slice of tomato to each muffin if desired. Top with a bit more shredded cheese, a dash of salt and some panko crumbs.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. If necessary, broil at the end to toast up the bread crumbs. After removing the muffin tin from the oven, let cool for a few minutes so that the muffins stay together when you remove them from the tin.